The PSL and the rival PSL

Paul Potter Roar Guru

By Paul Potter, Paul Potter is a Roar Guru

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    For eight matches, Shane Watson was the only Australian playing in the Pakistan Super League.

    When it comes to Australia’s Test team, it is a fast bowler who is most likely to have an injury record that threatens their career. Until last year, the prime example was Pat Cummins. It has since become James Pattinson.

    When it comes to Australia’s T20 team, the player with the most worrying injury record is a batsman, Chris Lynn.

    Meanwhile, Mitchell Johnson chose not to play in the PSL this year. That meant out of the three automatic Australian picks who were originally supposed to be at the PSL, only Watson remained by the time it started.

    It was only in the ninth match, when Watson was joined by John Hastings in the Quetta Gladiators team, that there was an exception.

    Watson is more likely to bowl all of his allotted overs in a PSL match than a Big Bash League match in 2018. Until his most recent match, Sarfraz Ahmed had bowled him for four overs in every match. Watson took 3-22 against the Karachi Kings, then received punishment from Sunil Narine in his first over against the Lahore Qalandars, which inflated his eventual figures of 1-35. Those figures, if not the one over of carnage, were repeated against an Islamabad United team whose captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, did not have a body sufficiently united enough to play, while Peshawar Zalmi could only score 16 runs and lost a wicket to boot.

    The anomaly came against the Multan Sultans. Defending only 102, Sarfraz gave Watson only two more balls than he gave himself, and gave up the same amount of runs – six.

    In a sense, Sarfraz and Watson were both culpable when it came to how much they bowled because of how they batted. Despite being the highest run-scorers for Quetta on the night, Watson could only score 19 runs off 17 balls, and Sarfraz could only score 30 off 33.

    In turn, it meant Sarfraz was willing to make quick decisions on who should be in and out of the bowling attack. Perhaps it was strange that Watson was taken out of the attack and not Rahat Ali, who was the more expensive opening bowler, but he turned to the slow left-arm orthodox of Mohammad Nawaz quicker than he may have done with more runs.

    It also meant that when all but one of them had been chased down, he gave himself a junk over.

    Bringing Hastings into the attack in the first over after the powerplay, and not the first over before the end of it, is easier to explain.

    In his first match, Luke Ronchi took that over for 24 and Devon Smith followed that performance up with an 18-run sayonara to the powerplay in the second match. When five fielders can be within speaking distance of the security guards, those same opponents found him as hard as Watson on a good day.

    Ronchi’s Islamabad United could only score 12 extra runs off Hastings, and lost JP Duminy in the process of those three overs. Quetta ended up losing to Peshawar Zalmi in their next match, but Hastings had brought them back into the game with the wicket of Mohammad Hafeez in his last over and by the time that over was completed, a mere seven runs had been added to the aforementioned 18 from Smith.

    So, Sarfraz had good reason to quarantine him to non-powerplay overs.

    His first opponent, Kumar Sangakkara, has something in common with Hastings; both would be unsatisfied with their most recent BBL season. Sangakkara gave way to Ben McDermott, not this season but the one before that, and the latter has been a key batsman for the Hobart Hurricanes ever since. Sangakkara has found it easier to open the batting in the PSL, even when the situation is not as favourable as the one he faced against Hastings. He didn’t need to look for boundaries. He scored a four anyway and, allied with two singles and two in the over, he and Ahmed Shehzad had won the over.

    That dose was repeated when Hastings came back into the attack, except it was Sohaib Maqsood, not Sangakkara, who hit the four.

    Unlike Quetta’s last defeat, it was a Pakistan player who hit the last runs for Multan. Darren Sammy hit the last runs for Peshawar, as the former West Indian captain solved the problem of running by not needing to do it because of his hitting.

    Watson and Hastings both spent time in that match bowling at Tamim Iqbal. Watson and Hastings no longer play for national teams; Iqbal still does. Yet, divorced from the issue of availability, Watson and Hastings are still considered as Australian as Tamim is considered to be Bangladesh. Strict restrictions on overseas player numbers mean that only a certain number can get into any league team, in the PSL or otherwise.

    Ronchi is no longer considered Australian, but it may hinder his financial opportunities in the game should he decide to try and play in Australia’s league and not New Zealand’s, as his Kiwi citizenship status means he is an overseas player for the purposes of the BBL. Back in the UAE, the Ben of the BBL, Laughlin, has played no PSL matches for his franchise this year.

    Shane Watson, of course, is the only Australian who is a consistent starter, regardless of such protectionism in a fragmented world. Should it ever prove necessary, Cricket Australia could host a rival PSL for the likes of Laughlin, called Prince Shane’s League, in honor of Australia’s greatest-ever T20 player.

    To eliminate the need to regulate how many overseas players can be in a particular team, the competition could be played in a different format to eliminate the need to write such regulation at all. To allow for rest and recovery for performers, there could be a gap of a week between matches. To ensure the competition’s relevance, the sole basis of selection in such a team could be performance.

    Oh well. Back to the Pakistan Super League for now.

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